WASHINGTON – Senior White House adviser Stephen Miller on Sunday sought to discredit a new report that President Donald Trump likely met with Russians at his Trump Tower headquarters, but then admitted he did not know.
Miller was asked about a June 9, 2016, meeting that included Donald Trump Jr. and top campaign officials on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Former aide Steve Bannon claims in a new book that the president’s eldest son almost certainly introduced the Russians to his father after the meeting.
Miller at first advanced the White House line that the book, “Fire and Fury,” by Michael Wolff, was a work of “very poorly written fiction.” But he then conceded: “I have no knowledge of anything to do with that meeting.”
The meeting has reportedly become a key element of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship with representatives of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whose spy agencies were working to help Trump become president. The meeting was set up on the promise that the Russians had damaging information against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
After news of the meeting surfaced last summer, Trump personally drafted a false statement about it in which he claimed that the get-together was unrelated to the campaign.
In the book, Bannon is quoted as calling Donald Trump Jr. “treasonous” and “unpatriotic” for arranging the meeting. He added: “The chance that Don Junior did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”
Bannon did not respond to a HuffPost request for comment. The website Axios on Sunday reported that Bannon released a statement saying his “treason” comment was directed at then-campaign chief Paul Manafort, not Donald Trump Jr. Manafort was also at the meeting with the Russians.
Wolff has said he tape recorded many of his interviews with top White House staff. And on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday, he said he stood behind the book’s assertions.
Miller was an ally of Bannon from the time Miller was an aide to then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions (R), who now serves as Trump’s attorney general. Bannon’s Breitbart website regularly attacked undocumented immigrants and politicians who took their side, and worked closely with Sessions long before Trump’s presidential candidacy.
Yet Miller on Sunday tried to downplay that history and instead attacked Bannon, as Trump and other White House officials have been doing since an excerpt of Wolfe’s book appeared last week. “It’s tragic and unfortunate that Steve would make these grotesque comments, so out of touch with reality and obviously so vindictive,” Miller said.
Miller also attacked Wolfe, saying: “The author is a garbage author of a garbage book.”
Wolff has drawn a portrait of a childish, temperamental and deeply ignorant president, and has questioned Trump’s mental fitness for the job. While that characterization is widely accepted among many journalists, lawmakers and legislative and executive branch staffers in Washington, the book has focused attention on that topic nationally for nearly a week.
On Saturday, Trump sent out a statement calling himself a “stable genius.” At a news availability, he then elaborated on his prowess, saying that he went to the “top colleges,” made “billions and billions” of dollars as a businessman and had a top-rated television show before entering politics.
Miller ― famous during his time as a Senate aide for his all-capitalized screeds against immigration that he would sent to reporters -– called Trump a genius several times during his interview on CNN.
“I saw a man who was a political genius,” Miller said about his time with Trump on the campaign trail. He added, seconds later: “The reality is the president is a political genius.”
A few minutes later, Miller said that Trump’s becoming president on his first try justified that word: “I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius, and a very stable genius at that.”
As he has done in previous interviews, Miller attacked the news media generally and the interviewer personally, continually shouting over CNN’s Jake Tapper until finally Tapper ended the interview.
“There is one viewer that you care about right now. And you’re being obsequious, you’re being a factotum in order to please him,” Tapper said.
Trump himself then appeared to prove Tapper’s assessment correct. Exactly 67 minutes after the interview aired, Trump tweeted: “Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!”